While steel is not something you can whip up in your kitchen or garage, it can be useful for several projects to know how it is made, so that you are better informed about what kind you may need. Strong construction and the process are contingent upon correctly following the steps involved in the steel making process.
- Iron ore is loaded into the blast furnace, along with coke (pure carbon derived from coal) and limestone (a substance that removes impurities).
- The iron emerges from the blast furnace free from most chemical impurities, and infused with a small percentage of carbon. Generally, the amount of carbon in this mixture is around 1%, but will vary according to what the steel will eventually be used for.
- It is transferred to the basic oxygen furnace (BOF), and combined with various amounts of scrap. However, this amount is always less than 30% of the finished product.
- Once all of the materials have been loaded into the furnace, they are exposed to a jet of pure oxygen. The oxygen combines with the carbon to create carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
- These fumes are pulled from the basic oxygen furnace, but the purified molten iron - now called carbon steel - is left behind. The transformation takes less than an hour in a basic oxygen furnace.
- Once the reaction has been completed, the hot carbon steel is transferred to a giant ladle.
- Other metals, such as nickel and chromium, are then added to create steel alloys.
- Most alloys undergo a degassing process, which is designed to remove any gases that may have been dissolved in the liquid metal by exposure to an inert gas.
- The final step is pouring the cast. When the desired metallic properties have been achieved, it is ready to be cast. The molten steel is poured into a mold (called a cast), and allowed to cool.
Once you understand the properties, then learning how to make it naturally follows. This product has a long, varied history, and is separated from wrought iron and cast iron only by the amount of carbon included in the smelting process. It is one of the most useful metals, noted for its strength and flexibility. Its utility is best demonstrated in construction, and it is no wonder that it can be found in our roads, our homes, and our cars. You might say that our lives are built from steel.